Four outstanding projects using American hardwood have been shortlisted for the prestigious Wood Awards 2017: two in the buildings competition and two in the furniture competition.
Established in 1971, the Wood Awards is the UK’s premier competition for excellence in architecture and product design in the world’s only naturally sustainable material. The Awards recognise, encourage and promote outstanding design, craftsmanship and installation using wood.
Previous hardwood winners include Contour House (American white oak) by Sanei Hopkins Architects, winner of the Private category 2016, and the Bespoke 2015 winner Ves-el (American white oak) by Gareth Neal, Zaha Hadid and Benchmark which was commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council’s 2014 The Wish List project for the London Design Festival.
The shortlist will be showcased at the London Design Fair (Stand B05, Hall T2), Old Truman Brewery, 21st-24th September. Winners will be revealed at the annual Wood Awards ceremony at Carpenters’ Hall on 21st November, by host Johanna Agerman Ross, Founder of Disegno magazine and Curator of Twentieth Century and Contemporary Furniture and Product Design at the V&A.
Twenty outstanding structures have been nominated for the Wood Awards 2017 shortlist, featuring some of Britain’s best architectural designs in wood. Two of these feature for the first time the use of hardwood CLT and, more specifically, American tulipwood. The judging panel, led by architect Michael Morrison of Purcell, visit all the shortlist projects in person, making this a uniquely rigorous competition.
Built in the grounds of NHS cancer hospitals, Maggie’s Centres offer free practical and emotional support for people affected by cancer. The design of Maggie’s Oldham is less about form and more about content. Supported on slender columns, the building floats above a garden framed by pine, birch and tulip poplar trees. From a central oasis, a tree grows up through the building, bringing nature inside. The use of wood at Maggie’s Oldham is part of a bigger design intention to reverse the norms of hospital architecture, where clinical institutionalised environments can make patients feel dispirited. In wood there is hope, humanity, scale and warmth.
Maggie’s Oldham is the first permanent building constructed from sustainable tulipwood cross- laminated timber, following on from dRMM and AHEC’s development of this material with the experimental project Endless Stair in 2013. All of the walls and roof are visibly structure and form an exquisite natural timber finish internally. The tulipwood CLT has been carefully detailed to bring out its natural beauty – its fine, variegated finish is more akin to a piece of furniture than a construction material. The slatted ceiling was created from wood left over from the CLT fabrication process, ensuring no waste. Wood fibre insulation ensures a breathable, healthy environment whilst the huge window frames are American white oak. Externally the building is draped in custom-fluted, thermally modified tulipwood, like a surreal theatrical curtain. Maggie’s Oldham is a carefully made manifesto for the architecture of health, realised in wood.
The Smile was an immersive sensory environment that integrated structure, surface, space and light to form a public gathering place. Conceived as a habitable arc, The Smile was a 3.5m high, 4.5m wide and 34m long curved timber tube that cantilevered 12m in two directions with viewing platforms at both ends. Up to 60 visitors could enter at one time through an opening where the arc touched the ground. Innovative solutions using long screws were developed, allowing the opening to be in the most highly stressed region. The Smile was the first project in the world to use large hardwood CLT panels; the entire structure was made from just 12 tulipwood panels, each up to 14m long and 4.5m wide. The CLT panels were connected with 7,000 self-tapping screws. At the base, a glulam timber cradle filled with 20 tonnes of steel counterweights, allowed the project to be self-supporting.
Perforations in the walls, concentrated in areas where there was less stress in the structure, brought dappled sunlight into the interior and dispersed where the timber was structurally working harder. While deceptively simple in design, The Smile has been one of the most important developments in a decade of research into structural timber innovation. Merging the advantages of CLT with the strength and appearance of hardwood, a building element was created that was both structure and finish, reducing total construction cost and speed. This allowed on-site assembly in just seven days.
Tulipwood was selected for its unusual combination of high strength and low density. These stronger, thinner panels were still compatible with CNC machining and cheap self-tapping screws. As industrial tulipwood CLT was a completely new material, its strength was derived from first principles and rigorous testing.
Two of the furniture and product projects shortlisted for the Wood Awards 2017, feature the use of American hardwoods. The shortlist has been selected by the judges, led by Max Fraser, design curator and author.
Case wanted to change preconceptions of what a folding chair is; a piece of furniture you would be proud to have on display at any time and not the emergency chair that comes out of the cupboard at Christmas. Designer David Irwin says: “It was a challenge to achieve a really comfortable seating position whilst also delivering the utilitarian rigour required of a folding chair but I think Narin delivers on both these fronts. Narin's smooth sweeping transition is accentuated through the solid timber turned legs into the formed backrest. This component is the key element of Narin's design as it not only provides a comfortable backrest but also acts as the pivot from where the back legs rotate. The seat and back are formed from a high-grade birch ply with oak or walnut veneer while the rest of the chair is solid wood.” The Narin doesn’t comprise on aesthetics or comfort despite the folding design.
RUSTIC STOOL 1.0
Rustic Stool 1.0 was developed through a process-driven approach to design engaging directly with the manufacturing technique itself: a 3-axis CNC router. The machine’s functionality is utilized as an integral part of the design process, where idiosyncrasies and imperfections influence the development of the product. By manipulating the machine's CAM software through playful and experimental interventions, unexpected and unconventional surfaces are created that deviate from the smooth perfected geometries associated with the conventional application of this technology. These artificially generated rough textures begin to evoke the raw state of the material in its natural form, defining the object with a kind of hybrid aesthetic that nuances rusticity through the language of the machine. The stool is part of Digital Daiku, a collection that interprets traditional Japanese aesthetic principles and explores their possibilities to inform furniture crafted using contemporary digital manufacturing processes.
American maple was used for its overall paleness, fine grain, and its delicate colouring and tonality. These characteristics along with its hardness and good machining capabilities made it ideal for the project, and created a subtle natural canvas with which to accentuate the bold machine-made form.